The 2020 back-to-school season will look like nothing we’ve seen before.
As the coronavirus continues to impact communities around the country, some kids may return to the classroom with a modified schedule, while others will receive only remote instruction. And in many cities, including New York, parents still don’t know what the school year will look like. That uncertainty has changed how families are shopping, and the way that brands are connecting with them.
A recent study by Deloitte forecast a shift in parents’ purchase preferences and intentions this year. In fact, two-fifths of parents plan to buy fewer traditional supplies for back-to-school, in favor of investing in laptops and online learning tools. And the way they are shopping is different as well: Parents of both K-12 and college-age students expect to spend a total of $10.4 billion online this season — up from $8.1 billion last year — due to health concerns about in-store shopping and retail shutdowns in some areas.
So as families adjust their back-to-school tactics, so, too, are the footwear brands that cater to them.
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“Without question [the uncertainty about reopenings] has affected our back-to-school marketing and how we approach it,” said Gary Gorsuch, president and COO of Trimfoot Co., which owns the Baby Deer and School Issue kids’ shoe brands. “We’re doing much more social media marketing as we have to connect directly to the consumer with our brand and message.”
Indeed, a number of brands in the kids’ market said social media has become an essential element of their marketing strategy.
Billy Price, co-founder of Billy Footwear, told FN his brand is active on Instagram and other major social channels, including Facebook, where they engage with fans weekly through a Facebook Live video.
Meanwhile, BBC International has jumped on the newest online video phenomenon: TikTok, which skyrocketed in popularity during the COVID-19 shutdowns and has become a big target for marketers. “Our Heelys brand has resonated on TikTok and we have seen strong support on this platform,” said Seth Campbell, corporate president of BBC International. He added that the company has also seen success by partnering with social media influencers who align with its brand messages.
Raia Savage, marketing manager for Vida Group, emphasized that listening has been the key component of recent marketing campaigns for the Stride Rite brand. “In this new world, there isn’t a normal and our entire way of doing has been challenged,” she said. “To us, that meant one thing: what do our consumers need now? What will they need in the future and how can we give it to them?”
As a result, the brand launched the #StrideRiteFamily initiative, inviting families to share and engage directly with the company through social media.
Savage added, “We also are always looking to revamp our strategies to be personalized and customized to the customer based on data and trends we are seeing throughout the marketplace.”
Overall, the online space has become vital to the kids’ footwear business, explained Matt Feiner, president and CEO of SG Cos., which produces shoes for popular franchises like Sesame Street, Paw Patrol and L.O.L. Surprise.
“E-commerce is the fastest-growing area of our business, and we are supporting it in a big way through our digital ad spend across most all customers and platforms,” Feiner said. “We have a very robust Amazon DTC business and are gearing up for very aggressive marketing campaign going into Q3 and Q4. Additionally, we are partnering closely with several key retail customers through their respective social media platforms with ‘click to buy’ links.”
Stride Rite Made2Play Journey
Stride Rite’s Made2Play Journey sneaker for boys and girls features elastic lacing and a Velcro strap for a secure fit — plus, it’s machine-washable. The silhouette also comes in an adaptable version to accommodate braces, orthotics and extra-wide widths.
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